Toronto senior loses $7,500 in grandparent scam
TORONTO -- A Toronto grandmother can’t believe she got scammed out of $7,500, but said she paid the criminals because she thought her grandson was in jail and needed help.
The senior, who asked not to be identified, said she got a call out of the blue from someone claiming to be her grandson who said, “Nana I need your help. I’m in trouble.”
The woman said when she told the caller he didn’t sound like her grandson he said it was because he had a cold.
He claimed he was driving his friend’s car and was pulled over by police and was arrested after they found drugs in the trunk.
The woman said the caller told her, “they're going to keep me here all night Nana, I don’t want to be here.”
“I’m thinking ‘oh my God I can’t have this,’” the woman told CTV News Toronto.
She said another person then came on the phone who claimed to be a police officer and instructed her to go to the bank and withdraw $7,500 cash to pay her grandson’s bail.
When she got the money, someone came to her home to pick it up. She later found out her grandson was fine.
“It sounded so true. Everything sounded absolutely dead-on. I cannot believe I was so stupid,” said the grandmother.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the grandparent emergency scam, which includes scams involving jail, accidents and hospitals, has cost victims $1,525,094 between January and September of this year.
Hamilton Police issued a news release earlier this week regarding the grandparent scam after seven seniors in the area were duped out of thousands of dollars.
“On average, I would say it's between $5,000 to $20,000 [that is handed over to criminals] before the person realizes they are involved in some kind of fraud, "said Det. Ben Adams of Hamilton police's senior’s unit.
Adams said criminals usually say a grandchild is in jail due to being impaired and causing an accident and require money for bail or a lawyer.
Criminals are becoming increasingly cunning and are even combing through obituaries and social media to find information such as names and ages of family members to sound more convincing.
"The suspects have done some research. I’ve had several instances now where [grandparents] say they have even sounded like their grandchild," said Adams.
To avoid being scammed, be suspicious of calls that demand immediate action and remember no law enforcement agency will demand immediate payment.
Never send money to anyone under uncertain conditions and if you are unsure about what’s happening, don’t be afraid to say “no.”
When scammers ask you to keep what’s happening a secret and to tell no one, you should still reach out to a family member or call the police.
“Make a phone call, calm down for a minute and try to not get caught up in the panic they are trying to create and call somebody and ask if this is a scam," said Adams.
As for the grandmother, she said she is angry and disappointed that she is now out $7,500 and feels foolish that she fell for the scam.
"I cannot believe I fell for this. I cannot believe it, but anyways I did. I was trying to protect my grandson so he didn't have to stay in a holding cell all night,” said the woman.
The grandparent scam is one that police say is under reported so they believe there are many more victims.
It's also linked to organized crime so once the money is gone police say it's almost impossible to get it back.